Primary Message of Genesis 1

Primary Message of Genesis 1

The Genesis account continues to cause faith problems for many people. Christians often attack other Christians who differ from their understanding. We see labels like “Young Earth Creationists” (YEC), “Old Earth Creationist” (OEC), “Theistic Evolutionists,” “Progressive Evolutionists,” and others. Our plea is for all sides to look at the primary message of Genesis 1:1 and the literal meaning of the key words in the Genesis account.

The primary message of Genesis 1 is that God created everything and that He created humans in His own image. A careful study of the Hebrew words and their context in the first verse removes most of the room for argument. Genesis 1:1 says, “Reshith Elohim bara shamayim Erets.” Each of these words is loaded with meaning to simplify the understanding of Genesis:

RESHITH The word is used to describe a beginning, Matter is not eternal, and there was a beginning to space, time, and matter/energy.

ELOHIM There are many Hebrew words to refer to God, such as Yahweh, Adonai, and El, but those refer to specific activities of God in human affairs. Elohim is used to refer to the power and creative strength of God.

BARA This word is uniquely applied to something only God can do. There are other words, such as “asah,” that describe making something from existing materials. The term “bara” is expressly understood to refer to God’s creation of something new. It is not used again until verse 27, where the reference is to man’s soul, which God created in His image.

SHAMAYIM This is a clear reference to everything “up there.” From our standpoint on Earth, that is galactic space and everything in it – not just the air we breathe.

ERETS This refers to planet Earth and not any other celestial body.

It is essential to understand the primary message of Genesis 1:1. We must also realize what Genesis 1:1 does not say. Genesis 1:1 doesn’t say what method God used to create heaven and earth. Denominational preachers are fond of saying, “He spoke it into existence.” The Bible doesn’t say anything like that until verse 3. God’s voice is not the creative device.

Genesis 1:1 contains no reference to time. The words do not tell us how long it took God to do what the verse describes. God created as a being outside of space and time. To make a dogmatic statement about when this happened or how long it took is to add a human opinion and complicate the verse. People usually do that to defend a denominational creed, but that is not the primary message of Genesis 1:1. As human understanding of quantum mechanics has grown, we are beginning to glimpse how creation from a higher dimension is possible.

So the primary message of Genesis 1:1 is that God created everything that exists. One more thing that the first chapter of Genesis does not say is that Earth is the only place where God created life. God may have created life elsewhere, but we know that God is the creator of all we see and that our own existence is a special and unique creation of Elohim. Adding to what the Bible says brings confusion and division.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Why Different Names For God?

Why Different Names For God?

Some people are confused by the fact that the Bible uses different names for God. We often use different terms to speak of the same individual. I might refer to my biological father as Dr. Clayton (he held a Ph.D. in philosophy), Mr. Clayton, Alfred Stafford Clayton, Staff, father, or daddy, depending on whom I was talking to or addressing. Those different names emphasize different aspects of the person. Likewise, the different names for God emphasize various aspects of His nature.

Elohim” in Hebrew refers to God’s power and might. It involves the fact that God is the only true and supreme God. That word was used in Genesis 1:1 because the creation process was a radical display of power and might. The Hebrew word “Adonai” was used in reference to God’s authority in human affairs. In Deuteronomy 6, we see the conclusion of the giving of the Ten Commandments. In talking about the value of the commandments, God tells His people that the purpose of those rules was “that it may go well with you” (Verse 3). Verse 6 indicates God’s authority: “And these words ‘Adonai’ commands you today shall be on your heart.” This isn’t about power and might, but about structure and order given by one in authority.

Perhaps the most quoted name for God is “Yahweh.” Since Yahweh” is the proper name of the divine Person, the Jews would not even speak it for fear of violating the commandment against using God’s name in vain. You will find “Yahweh” in passages that involve the promises of God. We see an example of the use of different names for God by a careful study of Genesis 1 and 2. In Genesis 1, the word used for God is “Elohim.” In Genesis 2, the word used is “Yahweh.” Some skeptics have maintained that Genesis 1 and 2 had two different authors, but looking at the names used for God dispels that idea.

The first chapter of Genesis deals with the creation. The power of God is the theme throughout the entire chapter. In Genesis 2, the theme is not creation, but the relationship between man and woman. Verse 24 of chapter 2 spells that out: “Therefore (the stated purpose of the chapter) shall a man leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one.” God’s plan for man and woman was for the support man needed (verse 20). Many of us who have lost our wives can testify to the truth of Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Being one is not just sexual; it is emotional, psychological, and spiritual.

The two names for God used in Genesis 1 and 2 do not indicate different authors. They express different themes, and both are important and correct. The Bible uses other different names for God, and that is not a weakness because each name carries a different emphasis. Understanding that is a key to understanding the Bible.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Genesis 1:1 and the Creation Week

Genesis 1:1 and Zion Canyon
Because it was not God’s purpose to give details of the creation of the universe, Genesis 1:1 covers it in one sentence. “Reshith Elohim bara shamayan erets.” Those are the Hebrew words translated: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This is a historical statement which says there was a beginning to everything in space and on Earth. Those few words tell us that God was the cause of the creation. The creation included a planet with everything that we would need to exist and flourish–carbon, oxygen, water, coal, oil, nitrates, etc. “Erets” refers to a functional planet–not to a blob of gook.

As we drove through the canyonlands last month (see earlier posts), we saw how God prepared the Earth and the physical, chemical, and biological agents He used. It is interesting to see that dinosaurs, as well as many microscopic forms of life, were the gardeners who allowed all of this to happen. Without dinosaurs, there would have been no agents to process the giant plants of that day and spread their seeds. Without tiny diatoms, there would have been no agents present to form the oil and other fossil fuels that we need. Notice that Genesis 1:1 is untimed and undated! How long did it take? When did it happen? The Bible doesn’t say.

In Genesis 1:2 we see that the earth needed to be formed. The word translated “earth” is the same Hebrew word “erets” found in verse 1. This second usage is clearly different, however, because Genesis 1:9-10 indicates that God separated this earth from the water, meaning that it refers to the earth people live on, not planet Earth.

In the following verses of Genesis, the “days” of the “creation week” give specific explanations of the origin of the plants, water creatures, cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks the ancient Israelites knew. Each Hebrew word refers to known and domesticated animals, not unknown animals. Days are used to provide continuity to the sequence in which God created life. How long those days were, whether they were consecutive or had long time-periods between them can be debated endlessly.

The fact is that the first verse describes the creation made by God with the things humans would need to survive on Earth. As we said, that first verse is untimed and undated. All of the studies of geologists and biologist as to how those resources were produced are covered in that one verse of Genesis 1:1. The creation week is a description of the actual production of humans and their domesticated animals.

On our trip into the canyonlands, we saw the power, wisdom, and planning God used to allow us to exist. Proverbs 8 presents wisdom as the causal agent of creation–not blind mechanistic chance. Theological claims that create conflict between God’s word and the display of His wisdom and design are due to human error, not to the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018